The Week That Was...
Ian comments on the Lance-related happenings in the world of cycling.
Despite retiring from the sport after his seventh consecutive Tour de France victory, American Lance Armstrong has not strayed far from the headlines and news stands over the past weeks. This has never been more evident than since French daily, L?Equipe, published allegations on 23rd August that the former Discovery Channel leader had tested positive for use of EPO during his first victory in the 1999 race. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /?>
Tests conducted in the Ch?tenay-Malabry laboratory allegedly show traces of EPO in B-samples of stored urine collected from the race - a test for the performance enhancing drug was not available in 1999. All of the A-samples were used at the time. The laboratory is considered a leader in the world fight against doping, and especially against EPO.
Upon hearing the news, Armstrong was quoted as saying that the test results were nothing more than a ?witch hunt? headed by the newspaper and the French Ministry of Sport, partly in light of the home nation?s poor performances in recent editions of the event. A claim which held some weight after it was announced that a several other riders had also tested positive although their identity remained undisclosed.
While certain parties, including the UCI, issued a word of caution and would not comment without reviewing all the facts, head of WADA, Dick Pound, told <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /?>
He went on to add that he had, ?no reason to believe that the analysis of the samples was not regular. Yes, the laboratory found EPO traces in many samples. It may be that EPO traces disappear gradually from urine, but it cannot be that no EPO should be in them and then it emerges as if from
Pound admitted that it would be very unlikely that WADA would pursue any action against the Texan, as it would prove to be ?legally very problematic.?
Also demanding answers was Tour director, Jean Marie Leblanc. ?Lance Armstrong as well as the other riders who were controlled positive in the study of the Parisian laboratory will have to explain themselves."
After dwelling on the allegations for several days, Armstrong finally broke his silence following his initial denials. "I'm thinking it's the best way to piss (the French) off," he said in an interview with told the Austin American-Statesman. Having vowed to never compete again, the former triathlete threatened to return to the race that made him one of the most marketable sports personalities of the 21st century.
Despite an initial denial by his spokesperson, Mark Higgins, who confirmed that Armstrong was ?100 percent retired?, the rider again went on record that same evening adding fuel to the fire. ?While I'm absolutely enjoying my time as a retired athlete with Sheryl and the kids, the recent smear campaign out of